02/26/2010 12:00AM

Justwhistledixie back on dirt


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Justwhistledixie will return to the scene of her two most important victories when she takes on six other older fillies and mares in Saturday's $100,000 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Justwhistledixie dominated the 3-year-old filly division here last winter, registering easy wins in both the Grade 2 Davona Dale and Grade 2 Bonnie Miss stakes while earning the two best Beyer Speed Figures of her career. Off those two performances, Justwhistledixie figured to be Rachel Alexandra's chief competition in the Kentucky Oaks, only to be scratched just hours before post time due to a bruised foot.

Justwhistledixie returned to New York, where she finished second as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 1 Acorn. Three months later, she was transferred from trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to her current home with Bill Mott. In two starts for Mott, Justwhistledixie finished second in Aqueduct's Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap and fourth trying an artificial surface for the first time in Santa Anita's Grade 2 El Encino on Jan. 17.

"The last race was sort of an experiment over the artificial track to see if she really liked it and to help determine where we might go with her down the road, and I think we got our answer," Mott said. "She really didn't look like she handled it, and hopefully we'll see a little better performance out of her on Saturday than we did in California."

The one-mile Sabin drew a field of eight older fillies and mares, three of whom - Matchless Orinda, Champagne Eyes, and Jessica Is Back - come from the barn of trainer Marty Wolfson.

Matchless Orinda ran the race of her life in her first start for Wolfson when rallying to a 7 1/2-length allowance win here earlier this month. Matchless Orinda had captured the What a Summer overnight stakes in her previous start, which came for trainer Allen Jerkens, nearly eight months earlier.

Champagne Eyes also won at first asking for Wolfson, beating high-priced optional claiming competition earlier in the meet. Champagne Eyes competed in two Grade 1 races with former trainer Doug O'Neill in 2009.

Jessica Is Back is the third member of Team Wolfson in the Sabin, and like Champagne Eyes is owned by the Farnsworth Stables. Jessica Is Back finished second after contesting the pace in the Sunshine Millions Distaff in her only start this season. A former claimer, Jessica Is Back earned a 111 Beyer capturing the Nancy's Glitter Handicap last summer at Calder.

Amazing also was an early pace factor in the Sunshine Millions Distaff before fading to finish fourth. She now cuts back to a mile and will race without blinkers for trainer Brian Lynch.

Completing the lineup are Slides Choice, runner-up in the Grade 2 Raven Run in her 3-year-old finale, Grade 3 winner Aurora Lights, and Group 1 South American winner Miss Match.

The Very One: Favorites get distance test

A full and evenly matched field of 14 will decide the 1 3/8-mile The Very One on the turf, with the distance the key to the chances of several of the top contenders.

Lady Shakespeare fell a head short of winning the Marshua's River here last month but has never started at beyond 1 1/8 miles.

Cable was beaten less than a length in the Grade 3 Suwannee River earlier this month, but she, too, has yet to go beyond nine furlongs.

The same is true for the speedy In My Glory, improving Mystic Miracle, and Grade 3 stakes winner Closeout.

Those horses with experience at 1 3/8 miles or longer include Morena, a Group 2 winner going 1 1/2 miles in her native Peru earlier in her career; Long Approach, runner-up in Calder's 12-furlong Grade 2 La Prevoyante last spring; Celtic Princess, third in the Group 1 Brazil Derby at 1 1/2 miles during fall 2007; and Changing Skies, who ran the majority of her races at 1 1/4 miles or longer during her 3-year-old campaign in Europe.